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|Screenworld - Page 6|
A Collective Delusion of Reality
Something enormous has happened: the scale on which our society judges a human event has changed—which, in itself, is a human event of the first magnitude, and is, to my knowledge, something psychotherapy has barely begun to gauge.
In Screenworld, images of reality supersede reality itself, editing it, transforming it, playing with it in any fashion, until the source of the image ceases to matter while the image itself becomes all that matters. It began a century ago, with motion pictures, when one had to seek out the screen but couldn't control it. Sixty years ago, television brought the screen into our homes. However great their influence, one left the TV and the movie theater to go out into the world. Now, cyber-powered Screenworld is ever-present, making reality seem infinitely malleable, and all of us may add our own twists at a whim. In Screenworld, the world has become a place in which, as a band called Living Color put it, "everything is possible, but nothing is real."
When a Blackberry brings the workplace with you wherever you go, where you are becomes less itself, less important as itself: the sense of a place loses its specificity, its particularity, its own complete reality. When you shop online, your community becomes less real; you don't need it as you once did: you don't need the bookstore; you don't need the music store. Losing their reality, such places disappear—literally. You walk down the street talking on your cell, and the observable world becomes a mere backdrop—unless you see something to video on your phone, when the world becomes your movie-set, gauged for its value as entertainment, not engagement. With an iPhone on your belt and an iPod in your ear, solitude is no longer solitary, while you hear not the sounds of the world, but your programmed soundtrack. The very idea of privacy is close to becoming alien, especially to the young, for whom to be "out of touch" is unthinkable, while calling and texting are seemingly constant. A place inaccessible to Screenworld is called a "dead zone"—which kind of says it all about Screenworld.
Isn't there something peculiarly disembodied about it? Human beings evolved to take in an enormous amount of information through our bodies. That's what "body language" is all about, not only gestures and postures, but physical inflections so subtle we aren't aware of making them in. Consider something as uncomfortably intimate as standing with strangers in an elevator: there are strict rules of elevator etiquette—never stare at anyone, keep your eyes front and slightly downward—precisely to protect ourselves from how forcefully bodies speak to one another, even unintentionally. Or consider the subtle signals that pass through a simple handshake. That entire realm of reality is absent from Screenworld, where one need never deal with the bodily strangeness of strangers—for even face-to-face on a web-cam, one responds to the image of a body, not a body, and that image rarely conveys skin-tone, not to mention scent.